(ORDO NEWS) — The Long March rocket arrived at the Wenchang Space Center on Monday in preparation for a new round of flights to the space station starting in May.
The Long March 7 rocket has been delivered to Wenchang after a nearly week-long journey from the northern port city of Tianjin, the China Manned Space Flight Agency said on April 11.
It is planned that next month the rocket will launch the Tianzhou-4 cargo ship weighing about 13.5 tons to the main module of China’s Tianhe space station.
Tianzhou-4 will deliver supplies and fuel to the crew of Shenzhou-14, which is expected to launch from the Jiuquan Space Center in the Gobi Desert in June.
The Shenzhou-14 crew of three will be on board the Tianhe space module until the arrival of two new modules, Wentian and Mengtian, which will complete China’s three-module T-shaped space station later this year.
China brought down the Tianzhou-2 spacecraft late last month after using it for tests to move the space station’s modules, making room for a new mission.
Subsequent launches of the Tianzhou 5 and Shenzhou 15 spacecraft in late 2022 will increase the crew with six astronauts aboard the Tiangong space station and lead to the completion of the construction phase of the project’s 11 missions.
China plans to operate the Tiangong station for at least 10 years and has already announced plans to open the station for commercial activity and possibly tourist flights.
There are currently three Shenzhou 13 astronauts on Tianhe, Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu. This mission is the longest in China to date. The 181 days in orbit is nearly double the previous national record of 92 days set by the Shenzhou 12 mission in 2021.
According to airspace closure notices, Shenzhou-13 will return to Earth between 9:35-10:05 local time on April 16.
The Shenzhou return capsule is scheduled to land at a designated landing zone in the Dongfeng area of the Gobi Desert.
Previous plantings have taken place in the pastures of Xizivang, Inner Mongolia. Factors behind this change include the growing population density in the Xizivang area, as well as the need to optimize the astronaut recovery process as Chinese space flights increase in duration.
As part of the Shenzhou-13 mission, a couple of spacewalks, a series of experiments and scientific lectures for students on Earth were carried out.
The Mission participated in a number of outreach activities to domestic audiences, including participation in the flagship television show Lunar New Year.
However, the astronauts also interacted with participants in the April 9th space exploration event held by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America.
Notably, Elon Musk delivered pre-recorded speeches at the event, saying he was looking forward to “mankind working together” in space.
Ambassador Qin Gang noted that space exploration is “a huge project of mankind, and it requires extensive international cooperation.”
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